Exploring the Delightful World of Membership Marketing

Created by Cori Albrecht

membership marketing

Did you know that the U.S. is home to more than 92,000 trade and professional organizations?

That’s according to the ASAE, the Center for Association Leadership—an association for associations.

An NPR story listed just a few of the interesting ones: National Association of Tower Erectors, Dwarf Athletic Association of America, and National Air Duct Cleaners Association. It just goes to show that everyone benefits from the connections and resources provided by professional membership organizations. They are community hubs and storehouses of knowledge and resources for members. They are also innovators who are embracing new technologies and ways to reach, engage, and delight members. That includes content marketing, a way to nurture relationships and convert interest into memberships.

With so many organizations competing for eyeballs and engagement, what can associations do to attract new members and provide valuable content for potential and existing members?

We’ve got some ideas.

Build a Community

One of the first steps for associations looking to increase their membership numbers is to learn about potential members. Find out what they want, and provide them with stories that engage and delight them. The idea is to get potential members to enter your orbit and keep them coming back because you’re offering authoritative and unique content. When the time is right, you ask them to become members, and they just might take you up on that offer.

In this case study, we helped an association increase web traffic by 43%. Their leads increased by 57%, and they converted 10% of leads to members, just in the first year.  This organization already had a wealth of content at their fingertips. We just helped them get it into the right hands.

How did we do it?

  • We analyzed the competition and their peers.
  • We figured out how they could offer unique content for their potential and existing members.
  • We created personas—profiles of ideal members and influencers—and helped them create and target content to those individuals.
  • We created a marketing content strategy.

Attract, Engage, and Delight Your Members

Our partners at HubSpot have perfected what is called the inbound methodology. It works equally well for businesses, nonprofits, associations, and anyone who wants to attract people by forming connections they are looking for and solving their problems. Inbound marketing draws potential members to your association by eliminating the “junk mail” and providing useful content to potential members.  

Not just useful—delightful.

The three major principles of inbound marketing are attract, engage, and delight. It’s a way of thinking about marketing that centers around solving problems and challenges for people, not shoving content toward them.

In this HubSpot post, “The Ultimate Guide to Customer Delight,” Sophia Bernazzani focuses on the delight aspect. Marketing attracts strangers and engages prospects. She defines customer delight as “the process of exceeding a customer’s expectations to create a positive experience with your product or brand to improve loyalty.”

In the case of an association, the prospects are the potential members. When they are delighted, they will join you. And if you continue to delight them, they will stay and become loyal to your organization’s brand.

Ah, but how are you going to do all this?

Here are some tips from HubSpot, the delight experts:

  1. Solve customers’ problems.
  2. Be timely.
  3. Be helpful.
  4. Help customers succeed.
  5. Listen to customer feedback.
  6. Be enthusiastic.
  7. Be unexpected.
  8. Build a community.

Sounds great. But it also sounds like you need to create a lot of content. And remember, it needs to be high-quality content rich with images, keywords, and relevant stories. Don’t let the sound of that discourage you.

Find New Ways to Share Your Existing Resources

Yodelpop account manager Cori Albrecht says she has worked with many associations, and many of them have small communications departments. “They have heard all the buzzwords about content marketing, and they know they need to do more to attract members, but they just don’t know how to get started. They’re kind of overwhelmed by it.”

What these folks don’t always grasp is that they have loads of great content already. They have brochures about the value of membership. They hold annual conferences every year and record sessions that can be turned into blogs. They have white papers, educational materials, research studies, and journals. The content is there. We just need to learn better ways to use it, share it, and get it into the right hands.

In this helpful post, Cori recommends starting by taking inventory of all the literature your organization has, even if it’s an old print piece, or something buried on a server. You might be surprised to learn what’s already out there that can be repurposed to educate, engage, and delight potential members.

Take Potential Members on a Journey

Content is connection. It’s a way of taking potential members on a journey from interest to engagement. These can be challenging times for engagement. Some of the traditional ways of reaching prospective members include in-person educational events, conferences, and annual meetings. All of which had to be moved online in recent years to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As a result, many organizations have come to rely even more on online strategies for staying in touch with membership and prospective members. In this conversation with Paul Stark, marketing and communications director at the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), we explore that organization’s pandemic strategies. They were able to survive and thrive by harnessing the power of collaborative partnerships and technology.

Their marketing team has learned new skills and ways to connect with members, such as creating and sharing more digital and video content. They have even expanded their reach because virtual meetings allow them to connect with different segments that normally couldn’t attend. And they are working tirelessly to understand the behavior on their website, how people are responding to the content.

Innovate to Provide Value

In this ASAE article, the authors explore innovative ways to enhance relationships even when fewer interactions can take place in person. For example, The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) has a virtual mentorship program that connects experienced designers with newbies. That program also creates opportunities to learn what content, resources, and opportunities potential members are seeking.

Once you learn the problems people are trying to solve and what content you can provide to help them solve those problems, the ship has launched. Then you can sail on to a successful membership marketing strategy for your association.